The ABC staff had a major debate before we decided to place our Community Christmas Tree at the side of the curb, instead of up on the first landing where it was last year. Our reason for the move was to make it more accessible to people, so that it clearly belonged to everyone in the neighborhood, not just to church members. However, the concern was that making it more accessible would also make it more stealable. Someone predicted it would be gone in a few hours.

We decided to take the risk, and the tree is still there. It was erected on December 2, so we’re starting a new tradition: The 22 Days Before Christmas. If it’s still there on Christmas Eve, that will mark 22 days of being protected by the “Christmas Guilt” that makes some people improve their behavior in the Christmas season. Today is the Seventh Day of the 22 Days.

We didn’t invent the idea that someone would dare steal a Christmas Tree. The Grinch actually made that heist as part of Dr. Seuss’ children’s story How the Grinch Stole Christmas. He dressed like Santa, went down the chimney of a family in Whoville and pulled the tree back up, after telling “Little Cindy-Lou Who, who was not more than two,” that he was going to fix the lights in his shop. Why the Grinch was so anti-Christmas is explained very simply: “His heart was two sizes too small.”

But the Grinch was totally surprised when, even without their Christmas Tree, the people of Whoville still sang happy songs on Christmas Day. “He HADN’T stopped Christmas from coming, IT CAME! Some how or other, it came just the same!” When he realized that Christmas “doesn’t come from the store.” but “perhaps, means a little bit more,” a change came over him, and “the Grinch’s small heart grew three sizes that day.”

Anybody in Altadena can steal our Community Tree without pulling it up through a chimney. But if they do, they’ll still hear us praising the Lord on Christmas Day. Without the Christmas Good News, our hearts would be at least two sizes too small. But thanks to Birth of that Baby Savior, our hearts are at least three times larger, and we’re ready to forgive and embrace any Altadena Grinch.

We’ll tell him about the wonderful words from Psalm 119:31-34:

I cling to your decrees, O LORD;
let me not be put to shame.
I run the way of your commandments,
for you enlarge my heart.
Teach me, O LORD, the way of your statutes,
and I will observe it to the end.
Give me understanding, that I may keep your law
and observe it with my whole heart.

– Pastor George Van Alstine